Watch thousands of robots pack groceries in a warehouse

Ocado robots zip around simultaneously filling orders without bumping into each other in this fascinating look at a modern warehouse. Read the rest

Human hair as a computer interface

UC Berkeley researcher and artist Eric Paulos and his students continue their explorations of "cosmetic computing" with a new prototype and paper about "Human Hair as Interactive Material." If you'd like to coif your own computational locks, they've posted a how-to guide on Instructables. From their research page:

Human hair is a cultural material, with a rich history displaying individuality, cultural expression and group identity. It is malleable in length, color and style, highly visible, and embedded in a range of personal and group interactions. As wearable technologies move ever closer to the body, and embodied interactions become more common and desirable, hair presents a unique and little-explored site for novel interactions. In this paper, we present an exploration and working prototype of hair as a site for novel interaction, leveraging its position as something both public and private, social and personal, malleable and permanent. We develop applications and interactions around this new material in HäirIÖ: a novel integration of hair-based technologies and braids that combine capacitive touch input and dynamic output through color and shape change. Finally, we evaluate this hair-based interactive technology with users, including the integration of HäirIÖ within the landscape of existing wearable and mobile technologies.

For more, please listen to Mark Frauenfelder and I interview Eric about Cosmetic Computing in this episode of For Future Reference, a podcast from Institute for the Future:

Read the rest

Cops use backdoored WhatsApp photo to extract fingerprints and convict user

South Wales Police announced they were able to access a WhatsApp user's photos through a backdoor, then extract fingerprint data from a picture of a weed dealer's hand to help convict 11 involved people. Read the rest

The end of Windows closes in

Five years ago, Steve Ballmer said "we can make Windows devices once again the devices to own." Last week, Microsoft announced that Windows will no longer be a standalone unit at Microsoft, ending a division dedicated to personal OS that started in 1980. Via Ben Thompson at Stratechery: Read the rest

Scientists design fire alarm wallpaper made from the same mineral as bone and teeth

Researchers demonstrated a prototype "fire alarm wallpaper" that's meant to be flame-resistant while also integrating a nanotechnology-based sensor that triggers a siren and warning lights. Ying-Jie Zhu at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues published their work in the journal ACS Nano.

The new wallpaper is based on hydroxyapatite, which is the primary inorganic component of bone and teeth. Although hydroxyapatite is typically brittle and inflexible, in previous work the researchers found that forming ultralong nanowires made of hydroxyapatite gives the material a high flexibility suitable for making wallpaper.

In order to make the nonflammable wallpaper a "smart material" capable of automatically sounding an alarm in response to a fire, the researchers incorporated an ink-based thermosensitive sensor onto the wallpaper.

The thermosensitive sensor is fabricated on the surface of the wallpaper by a simple drop-casting process using an ink containing graphene oxide. The tiny sensor is placed on the backside of the fire- resistant wallpaper so that it is out of sight and protected by the fireproof wallpaper.

The sensor is composed primarily of graphene oxide, which is electrically insulating at room temperature. However, when exposed to heat, the oxygen-containing groups are removed, making the material highly conductive. The sensor is connected to an alarm, so when a fire occurs and the sensor begins to conduct electricity, it causes the alarm to go off.

"Fire alarm wallpaper detects, resists, and warns of house fires" (Phys.org)

Read the rest

Watch this bizarre Komputer Tutor supercut of the phrase "floppy diskette"

An absurd and wonderful example of semantic satiation, starring the "Komputer Tutor" Kim Komando, best known for her bestselling 1990s instructional videos sold via infomericial. And in case you were wondering, Kim Komando is still at it!

Read the rest

Particle accelerator reveals ancient medical manuscript replaced with religious text

The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California recently found a 6th century manuscript by Greek physician Galen, which had been scraped from its pages 500 years later and replaced with religious text. Who needs science when there are religious texts that need copying? Read the rest

Impressive look at how Rachel got recreated in Blade Runner 2049

Visual effects house MPC offers a fascinating glimpse into the remarkable work they did to digitally recreate Rachel in Blade Runner 2049. Each iteration of these technologies inches close to indistinguishable duplicates. Read the rest

Watch a virtual 360-degree tour of BookBot library retrieval system

BookBot is a nifty book retrieval system at North Carolina State University's James B. Hunt Jr. Library. Here's a panoramic book's-eye view of the retrieval process. Read the rest

Watch these robots measure and saw wood

People who need custom furniture in the future may be able to feed the design into a program and then have robot-assisted carpentry do the rest. Read the rest

Your old gadgets are likely good enough

When I'm not here pointing out dog videos, I spend the rest of my work day as a technology journalist. I decided that I wanted in on this line of work because I love gadgets. There was always something new coming out that I couldn't afford to buy. Now, as I get to play with new tech on an almost daily basis, I don't feel like I'm missing out on much of anything. My office is full of smartphones, computers, wearables and travel gear. It's loaned to me, I play with it and then, I send it back. It's such a privilege to have access to the sorts of swag that a lot of geeks like me drool over. I never get tired of playing with new products. But having done it for close to a decade has left me a bit jaded: what's new is seldom as spectacular as we want it to be.

Take this year's crop of flagship smartphones, for example. They're a little bit faster, a little bit glossier. Maybe the one you've been looking at has an edge-to-edge display. I get it: bezels on a handset are bullshit, so, you totally want one. I know I do. But I also know, having played with them, that the incremental differences between one year's model and the next is so moot, that they won't make a lick of difference in my day-to-day life. TVs are the same. Most of the folks I know just want the shows and movies that they watch to look their best. Read the rest

Japanese inn with "self-driving" robotic slippers and other autonomous amenities

Nissan, to show off its autonomous parking tech, outfitted an inn in Hakone, Japan with "self-parking slippers," autonomous floor cushions that tidy themselves, and a TV remote control that straightens itself on the coffee table. While obviously a marketing gimmick, self-knolling anything is quite appealing to me. ProPILOT Park Ryokan (Nissan)

Read the rest

Watch professor smash laptop in front of class

Boing Boing pal Eric Paulos, an engineering professor and artist at UC Berkeley, has a history of high-tech provocations, from his early work with machine performance group Survival Research Laboratories to his controversial art installations such as a vending machine for pathogens. Above is the performance/prank Eric recently staged to open his Critical Making class:

On the first day of class, I wanted to make a point about expectations – about expectations for this course and more importantly about leaving them behind as we engage in the material and topics within Critical Making. Rather than say it or even show a slide, I unexpectedly and dramatically lifted "my" laptop and smashed it across the floor of the classroom.

Next, I setup the room, ensuring that the impact area would be clear and safe and also that I could adequately conceal my real laptop underneath using a haphazardly stacked set of design textbooks as camouflage. You can see my real laptop in the image below, carefully concealed underneath the broken laptop. I was able to easily advance my slides using a handheld remote control. I placed a board across, concealing my real laptop and then placed the staged laptop on top. A few more books covered up the board and a fake cable were attached to the broken laptop giving the illusion that all was normal – as expected.

I rehearsed the staging, where I would stand, what I would say, and how I would grab the laptop. Remember the bottom of the laptop would completely fall apart if lifted improperly.

Read the rest

Interesting sneak peek of Vaunt, Intel's new smart glasses

With Vaunt, Intel is taking steps toward solving the Glasshole paradox: how to get consumers to wear wearables that don't make wearers seem like bad clichés of wearable users. Read the rest

Self-driving cars face a huge challenge in detecting bicycles

Self-driving cars have a hard time predicting bicycle movement, and workarounds that require cyclists to buy transmitters are running into resistance from some. Read the rest

Today's scares over smartphones are largely indistinguishable from yesterday's technology-driven moral panics

The "addictiveness of smartphones" is the latest technology moral panic, sending parents off with furrowed brows over whether theire kids' "brains are being rewired" by their phones. Read the rest

NASA uses 450,000 gallons of water to shield launch vehicles from acoustic damage

NASA uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of water during launches to suppress vibration during liftoff: "a curtain of water around the engines to dampen the loudness of the test and protect the core stage from noise damage". Here's the system being tested!

Water flowed during a test at Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. About 450,000 gallons of water flowed at high speed from a holding tank through new and modified piping and valves, the flame trench, flame deflector nozzles and mobile launcher interface risers during a wet flow test at Launch Complex 39B. At peak flow, the water reached about 100 feet in the air above the pad surface. The test was a milestone to confirm and baseline the performance of the Ignition Overpressure/Sound Suppression system. During launch of NASA's Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, the high-speed water flow will help protect the vehicle from the extreme acoustic and temperature environment during ignition and liftoff.

Read the rest

More posts